Albums From The Milk Crate
In ancient times when music was considered a tangible possession, music lovers placed their prized vinyl albums in wooden or plastic milk crates. Guests could enter your living room, look through your albums, and find out who you are, and what you’re about. With this idea in mind, I present to you a series of articles about guitar records from the past titled: Albums From The Milk Crate.
Saga – Worlds Apart
Producer: Rupert Hine
Prior to Saga’s Worlds Apart album in October of 1981, the Canadian prog-rock band had recorded three albums. They’d had modest success in Canada and Germany, and were doing very good business in Puerto Rico. Formerly called Pockets, the band changed its name because it was a better fit with their proclivity for writing musical themes with ongoing stories and chapters.
At that time, the members of Saga were comprised of Michael Sadler lead vocals, Jim Crichton bass and keyboards, Ian Crichton guitar, Steve Negus drums and percussion, and Jim Gilmour keyboards and vocals. Along with producer Robert Hine, the band recorded Worlds Apart at The Farmyard in Little Chalfont, Buckinghamshire, England. The album blended an inspired mix of progressive concepts, crafty arrangements, technical virtuosity, impassioned vocals, and a hook laden pop sensibility. This pop sensibility could be heard on the singles “On The Loose” (Which took over one hundred re-writes of the chorus) and “Wind Him Up.”
Guitarist Ian Crichton is one of the great, underrated, creative forces of the 1980’s. His wild, soaring, and unpredictable soloing, along with his fast, signature muted staccato lines, still resonates with guitarists today. Unlike many prog bands of the 60’s and 70’s, Saga deviated from long-term epic tests of Attention Deficit Disorder, to focus on more concise works with catchy hooks and melodies. Like their Canadian prog contemporaries Rush, their lyrics dealt with sci-fi themes, along with a heavy dose of humanity, though they had their own distinct sound and style.
Worlds Apart was the band’s first major label release and also their first commercial breakthrough. “On The Loose” and “Wind Him Up” cracked the Top 40 and were some of the first music videos to be aired on the fledgling MTV Network. In America, the album was certified gold in 1983. The rest of the record has stellar compositions as well. “Framed,” “Amnesia,” and “Conversations,” mixes interesting contrapuntal layers of keyboard, guitar, and drumming, all in service of memorable, ear friendly compositions, and smooth atmospheric production. “No Stranger” has a great 80’s arena rock feel with cool changes in tempo, dynamics, and a twisted, bent out of shape solo from Ian Crichton. Rock guitarists owe it to themselves to hear the dipping and diving, flight through the universe soloing on “Framed.” Its classic Ian Crichton soloing at his finest.
Worlds Apart is arguably Saga at their creative and inspirational peak. It’s quite possibly their best album. In 2007, the band released Worlds Apart Revisited, a live album in a 2-CD package that included all the songs from the original album along with compositions from their other recordings. To date, Saga has recorded twenty-one studio albums, six live albums, and are still going strong.